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New Laws Protect Student Athletes from Concussions, Cardiac Arrest

Pennsylvania has passed two new laws to help protect student athletes.

As the national dialogue around safety in athletics continues to grow, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania took two steps forward this year in ensuring athlete safety.

The "Safety in Youth Sports Act" took effect earlier this month, after being signed by Governor Tom Corbett last November. The law aims to curb the damaging effects of concussions, particularly by cautiously limiting the play of athletes who may have suffered one.

"The [law] marks a sea change in how coaches, school officials, athletes and parents are to respond to head injuries to school-aged athletes," wrote Philadelphia Inquirer writer Kathy Boccella.

The law requires that any athlete suspected of suffering a concussion be removed from the game, and be unable to return until getting an all-clear evaluation from a physician. It also requires coaches to undergo yearly concussion training, and allows for penalization of those who do not follow its guidelines.

According to a recent Colonial News article, the Colonial School District has already updated its policies to comply with the new law. The district will now perform impact testing on student athletes, which after establishing a base sample over two years, will enable personnel to more easily detect concussions, the Colonial News reported.

Pennsylvania has also passed legislation to protect against "sudden cardiac arrest," a condition that occurs when the heart's electrical system malfunctions, causing irregular heart rhythms that can lead to death.

According to a by state senator Wayne Fontana (D-42), the condition causes approximately 7,000 deaths in young people across the country, every year. The new legislation, entitled "Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act," and signed into law by Gov. Corbett in May, requires students and parents to take online training before participating in any PIAA activity.

The training will educate students and parents on the signs and symptoms of the condition. Coaches will also be required to take the training, and must remove any athlete who exhibits signs of sudden cardiac arrest from play. Athletes will be unable to return until receiving medical clearance from a physician.

According to Sen. Fontana's column, the law will take effect in early August. In addition, State Rep. Kate Harper (R-61) is making the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act the main topic of her August "Legislative Report" television program. On the show, Rep. Harper will discuss the new law with its original sponsor, Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery).

Dot July 30, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Keep kids as safe as possible, yes. Following a concussion, there is no fool-proof way of "clearing" an athlete for play allows for penalization of those who do not follow its guidelines.. What kind of education for students and parents will prevent sudden death? This seems foolish. The only things these laws do are: allow for penalizing of those who do not follow its guidelines - can this mean "criminally liable"? Also, it opens the flood gates even wider for lawyers to step in, insinuate themselves into something else and point the finger of blame. No doubt we'll see ads on TV, "Did your child suffer a concussion in school sports? Contact us for information on your way to wealth & fortune." Cynical? Well...
Don M July 30, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Dot, well put. There are certain product safeguards that would provide more reasonable, and possibly more effective, methods than soft procedural matters this guideline appears to require. From heart guards to concussion-detection monitors inside helmets and such, these take the guess-work off the field and out of the hands of coaches and trainers who are not qualified to properly or independently evaluate medical conditions. I'm in support of penalizing institutions who promote winning in the absense of safety but there needs to be a less-subjective manner to determine negligence. Perhaps coaches will adopt these products as a safeguard against claims while doing right by their youth athletes.

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